This week we have a class of seven kids and their attendant teachers here to learn about mustangs. Mostly junior high and high school kids, all incredibly bright and focused. Of course they don’t know much about training mustangs, but they have been out all last week talking to all kinds of horse people. Horse therapists, horse rescuers, mustang handlers. They may not know how to put on a halter, but they are all game to try and my animals are all patient with the little people.
Today we started out with halter driving. We practiced on “horses” made of two people. The kids thought they had it down until the real animals presented them with permutations that were quite unplanned. Things fell apart but they kept trying. I stayed out in the far pen with Dylan, Maya, and Cisco. Dylan is quite enamored with Cisco. Cisco is more than 16 hands tall, Dylan is about 4 feet all and only in the 6th grade. He is the youngest of the campers and this is his first time away from home. Cisco did not want to let Dylan on his right side, so I had to step into the circle and help push Cisco into place when it was time to go clockwise. We practiced and practiced and Cisco improved bit by bit. Maya could pretty well manage and Dylan did very well for his size….
Then it was time to bring everyone together and let them show their mastery by halter driving their steeds. Dylan went first and was disappointed by his steeds performance. Chaco made his handlers look proficient. Cracker, Chester, and Tobiah all worked to highlight their handlers deficiencies. On a couple of the demonstrations, I instructed the handlers to unclip the lead rope and show the animal at liberty. The animals generally worked better without a lead than with one. The last person to go was nominally Maya, she showed Cisco to be passable and then unclipped the lead at my request. Cisco followed every move perfectly. Then, realizing the potential of the moment, I instructed Dylan to return to the ring and show Cisco at liberty. The horse and boy went round the ring as a synchronized unit. It was perfect harmony with an awestruck audience gasping at the fluidity of the turns. Mr. Dylan has responded to his newfound equine handling prowess, by losing some of his self-conscious shyness and starting to talk to his peers. He is so loveable that we are all rejoicing for him.
As Dylan was finishing his performance, Anthony Madrid and Jessica, of the USFS, arrived to give a talk on mustangs. Anthony talked for more than an hour because we kept him going with so many questions about the USFS mustang program. It was facinating to hear about Dan Elkins, the mustang herd, the bands, and the land they live in. We heard about the ins and outs of horse adoption. No stone was left unturned, we even talked about mustang birth control drugs and castration. Finally we could ignore lunch no longer and we stopped talking mustangs long enough for some hotdogs and jello.
Maddy has been cooking for the Mustang Camp. She is phenomenal. It might be hotdogs, but with Maddy at the helm they are hotdogs with a flair and the yummiest hotdogs known to human kind. I did not realize that she had such a drive to be a camp catering cook. Her talents have been revealed.
After lunch, we caught up the young mustangs and had them standing tied when Anthony and Jessica came to inspect them. They were quiet and let Anthony come up and pet them, then lead one around. They held up their front feet when asked for them. They weren’t perfect, but I was proud of them. The USFS officials seemed impressed. Then
Anthony drove his bale of hay around to the barn and we pulled it out of the truck bed by tying a strap around it and to the barn poles. He drove the truck out from under where the giant bale was tethered. I asked if there was any funds available for gentling mustangs and Anthony assured me that there are. Dan has the contract, but does not have the time to do the job himself so it is very likely something can be worked out if I am seriously interested. You bet I am! May it be so.